Training for a triathlon as a cyclist is frustrating and making my first triathlon a full Ironman is even more frustrating. I am only just starting to understand that an Ironman is not a swimming event followed by a cycling event followed by a running event. That an Ironman is a single event that flows through three disciplines.
My frustrations have been mitigated some this week by some progress in the swim, a better understanding of the cycling portion and some discovery about nutrition on the run.
On the swim I did my first workout going more than 3000 meters--3400 meters. It consisted of 400 meters of warmup, then a ladder of 500, 400, ..., 100, 100, 200, ...500 meter swims with a little rest between swim intervals. I kept a consistent time per 100 meters with a time of 2:22 average in the first 500 and 2:32 in the last 500 meter interval. Slow but fast enough for now.
A long discussion with my tri coach about swimming really helped. I have been pushing to do a 3000 meter swim because he set that as a milestone for March. He set that before he knew me very well not knowing that something like that is a challenge to me and I will push to beat it. He didn't mean it that way. He wanted me to know I had lots of time to get my swimming technique right and that by March I could be swimming 3000 meters--not that I needed to get to that distance for some important training reason. So I am much more comfortable with where I am swimming.
I probably worried my coach about cycling unnecessarily. This is where the impact of training for a triathlon instead of a cycling event is impacting me the most. While I am a strong cyclists for my age and a generally strong cyclists (and considering that I live in Boulder where there are hundreds (really, hundreds) of exceptional cyclists), I am concerned as my cycling fitness and power decline.
The decline is a byproduct of changing my cadence. My normal cadence is 78-82 and I can power up Colorado mountains pretty well at that cadence. But my coach has explained several times, and I am just now getting it, that it is all about the run and I must have legs left to run 26.2 miles. To save the legs I need a higher cadence and more utilization of my glutes and hamstrings. That is unnatural for me and my power is way off.
Ideally I would be on a TT bike but I don't have one and probably won't have one for my first race. But I understand now so I am concentrating on building my cadence and will worry about power later.
Finally there might be a breakthrough on the run. I have done another 10 mile, two hour run and it was just as bad the last three miles as the first. In discussing it with my coach we were both perplexed about why I faded so badly. Then he asked the key question. What was I drinking and eating on the long run. Nothing. Perhaps I am running out of calories and electrolytes. It makes sense and I will test it as soon as I can get outside again.
It has been a productive couple of weeks. My biggest challenge is to avoid weight gain over our family vacation and the holidays. Just like everyone else.